Friday, November 04, 2011

Winter Tale

Sorry for the delay, but the last week has been a little weird.

Last Friday night, Big Bear told me to come in at 7:30 am Saturday morning “unless it was pouring.”  I didn’t realize this at the time, but because I live about 30 minutes away from the course, there was a 99% chance that it could be pouring rain at the course but be completely dry near my abode.

So, predictably, when I got up Saturday morning I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.  About halfway to the course, however, the rain started coming down.  When I finally parked, it was windy, freezing, and raining just hard enough to make you think hail might be on its way.

When I got into the caddie area, there was only one other caddie there.  It was Larry.

“What the hell are you doing here?” This is now his way of greeting me every morning.

“I don’t know.  I heard it might snow today.  I’ll probably stay until 9:30 or so just to say I was here—I don’t think anyone will even be playing today.”

“Yeah, me neither.  You want some coffee?”

So we sat and drank coffee for about an hour.  He’s a good guy, and he gave me the skinny on the season at the course: when the busy months are, the fact that I might be able to get on “weekend warrior” status even while I’m working my full-time job, and even enlightened me about a private men’s bathroom nearby.  Now that’s valuable information.

Then Larry left for some reason.  I think he went for a smoke.  Then the phone rang.  I froze, and ultimately decided not to go near it.  I mean there’s nobody playing today, right? Why answer the phone?

Ten minutes later, the head pro walked down into the TV room where I was sitting.

“Oh, you are here.  We got two guys that want to play.”

Then Larry walked back in: “Hey, what’s happening?”

“We got two guys that want to play.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“No.  Mr. Little-Strange and Mr. Weed.  They’ll be here in 10 minutes, so you guys better suit up.”

Then the pro shook his head and left.  I stepped outside just to see what the weather was like at that point.  It was COLD.  I went back inside, where Larry was already getting ready.

“Hey Tom, if you don’t want to work, that’s fine.  These guys tip well, though, so it may be worth your while.”

“Yeah, yeah.  I’ll do it.”

I never complain about getting a loop, but today I was more than a little worried about my health.  It was freezing outside, and constant rain and a threat of snow really didn’t seem to bode well either.  But, I’m a caddie, and this is the kind of crap some golfers love.  In fact, I have a theory that some private club members who play in conditions like this get such a rush that they end up telling their grandkids about the experience some day.  I mean, many of these members have more money than they could ever spend—they might NEED to play golf in the snow just because they’ve done everything else in their lives and they need that fulfillment. 

Mr. Little-Strange pulled up first, and although I tried to be a good caddie and valet his Porsche SUV for him, when I got inside the vehicle I couldn’t figure out how to put it in reverse.  Ridiculous, I know.  But when I sat down, there were so many lights and vibrations that I felt like the car was on when in fact it was OFF and I merely needed to turn the key.  Damn luxury vehicles.  So when I got back outside and told the member that I couldn’t put it into reverse, Mr. Little-Strange gave me a look that seemed to say: “Wow you’re an idiot, and I hope to God you’re not my caddie.” 

After he parked the SUV, I gave him the good news: “Hi Mr. Little-Strange, I’m you’re caddie.”

While Larry and I waited outside in the horrific tundra-esque conditions for our golfers—who were most likely inside warming up with a crack-pipe—we admired the 100-pound American flag that normally flies high and graces the club with its sense of pride and direction.

That morning, however, it had become tangled around the pole, and the cold, unforgiving winds were now ripping it to pieces.  There was something so sad about the sight.  Then I turned around and looked at my reflection in the window, and felt even sadder.  Are these douche-bags really playing today?

When the golfers finally came back outside, they were so gung-ho about playing it was scary.  They ran down to the first tee like a couple of kids.

“What should we play for? $5? $10?”

“How about a $25-$50 Nassau?”

“Yes! Yipeee!”

To add to the fun, I realized after Mr. Little-Strange’s tee shot that not only was he a little strange, but he also couldn’t hit the ball very far.  I’m not knocking the guy for that, because golf is hard enough, it’s just that when it’s cold, the ball doesn’t travel very far ANYWAY—and with all of the forced carries off of the tee-boxes, I would need to field these balls a little closer to the infield.

Did I mention it was cold? Larry had given me an extra rain hat he didn’t need, so at least my head would be dry.  The problem with the hat, however, is that every time the wind decided to gust—which was quite often, actually—the front of the cap would flip up so I looked like Gilligan, and my entire face was exposed to the elements.  It felt like opening up the freezer while a 10-year old doused me with a water-gun.

Fortunately, we whipped around the front 9 quickly.  I wasn’t wearing gloves, so every time I tended the flagstick I thought one of my hands would be stuck forever.  By the 5th or 6th hole I think my hands were almost numb, so every time Mr. Little-Strange tossed me the ball I would just slap it back to him and say “no thanks.”  Pulling clubs out of the bag was also fun—I found that using the back of my hands, although slow and stupid-looking, could still work in a pinch.

After 9 holes, the two brave souls—ahem, “douchebags”—went inside for more crack and to “warm-up.”  So me and Larry did the same, and went downstairs for more coffee and shredded some layers to air ourselves out. 

After about 15 minutes, the telephone rang.  I picked it up: “Are they ready for us?”

“Yep.  Come on up.”

Wonderful.  After putting on every layer I could think of again, we stepped outside and found that it had started to snow.  And I’m not talking a slow, graceful snow.  I’m talking fast, accumulation-type snow.  Oh, and the wind and cold temperatures were still in full-effect, which I was happy for, because I needed to get my hands numb again to pull clubs out of the bag.

When we got to the 10th tee, something finally dawned on Mr. Little-Strange.  He turned to Mr. Weed.

“Hey, how are we going to find a white ball in the snow?”

This seemed to stump them, so I butted in: “Just follow the trails in the fairway.”

Mr. Little-Strange was so overjoyed he yelled to the heavens: “Yippee!”

There was one small problem with my theory on “following trails in the fairway,” and that was the fact that Mr. Little-Strange wouldn’t be reaching any fairways off of the tee.  So that meant careful inspection of the rough, which at that point looked like something out of a Stephen King novel.

Somehow, we didn’t lose a ball for the rest of the round.  They picked up intermittently throughout the last four holes we played, which was a Godsend for me and Larry, who were both shivering at this point just to keep warm.  When we looked at the clubhouse to see how the American flag was doing, we saw quite an unusual sight: the STARS were now completely separated from the STRIPES.  The red and white stripes were wrapped around the pole a good 80 feet above the ground, and the blue and white stars were flapping high above—unencumbered—in the winter breezes.  As if this course wasn’t surreal enough: a links-style course with a complete view of Manhattan and the industrial sights of Bayonne, a clubhouse with a Lighthouse built into it, 2-inches of snow and fog so thick we couldn’t even see the water, and now a mutated American flag that was now most likely frozen to the pole a good 80 feet above the ground.

On the last hole, to win the match, Mr. Little-Strange used a wedge from 4 feet away and chipped the ball directly into the hole.  YIPEE!

All of a sudden, the round was over.  The pro came out to greet us after the 13th hole, saying that because of the snow he couldn’t let us go any further—we’d be doing too much damage to the grass.  Our entire foursome cried hysterically—tears of sadness for the players, tears of joy for the caddies.

I remember years ago caddying in February in Virginia.  There wasn’t any snow, but the ground was so hard that the caddies had to pass around a cordless power drill just to be able to tee-up the golf ball for the members on each hole.  I can say, without a doubt, that my experience on Saturday in the snow tops that. 
Driving home was a nightmare, and there were so many branches and trees that were down that there were times when I didn’t know if I would even make it back.  Later that day, after getting home and changing, the power went out.  It wouldn’t come back on until Wednesday night.

Although I caddied yesterday, it was far less entertaining than my experience on Saturday, so I figured I’d relay this story instead.  There’s a 40-player outing this morning, so I have to get going.  But I hope you enjoyed the read.


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